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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Holy Thursday, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
April 1, 2010

John 13:1–17,31b–35

Self-emptying love’

What the gospel shows – promises and enacts in us – is not simplistic at all, however simple it is: self-emptying love.

What happens when I let go the desire to wash myself clean or the temptation to wash my hands of responsibility for others? What happens when I let go the middle-class desire to make of myself a “tough-minded, highly motivated professional”? Even briefly, temporarily, what happens?

Is it something like this? I just might begin to desire differently – to desire what Jesus desires: the well-being and the freedom and the life of an other, of others.

There is the self-centred personal makeover. And there is self-emptying love. The first craves instant results. Self-emptying love is a way of living – or, dying and living.

Now, when my new desire – given by Jesus – is for the well-being of another, something very radical can happen. It can happen slowly. It might take years. I can actually begin to delight in the company of others – importantly, others who are very different from me. I can enjoy my life – the gift of life – in the world with others. In other words, I am a different ‘I’ who is beginning to love – to receive and to give love.

What is said of a sacramental economy, applies to foot-washing: “When those who celebrate sacraments in faith receive the gift of the life given in Christ, of the divine
agape, they enter into its flow” (David Power).

That this
agape is shown to us, and enacted among us today of all days, in the shadow of the Crucifixion, and all the shadows of betrayal, failure, humiliation, and cruelty, is enough to break your heart. And my heart, too. And, as we say – our desires for domination annihilated – we lift up our hearts; we lift them to God.